Victoria developer gets plenty of bang for her buck

Non-profit developer who leveraged funding hopes rental project the first of many

After developing Loreen Place

On March 1, with no media fanfare, a new below-market apartment building quietly started accepting tenants.

The 52-unit building at 21 Gorge Rd. E. marks a new beginning for the site, which housed the notorious Capri Motel until its demolition in 2009.

For developer Alanna Holroyd, its successful completion proves rental housing can be achieved with only modest capital grants and no ongoing rental subsidies.

She named the building Loreen Place after her mother, Loreen Vandekerkhove.

“She was raised poor and she remembers it quite well,” says Holroyd, who created the non-profit Greater Victoria Rental Development Society in 2009.

She secured a $9.8-million loan to construct the building with only $740,000 in grants up front.

“In the business world, that is unheard of,” she says.

Traditionally, developers have needed to raise 50 per cent of the cost to get a loan.

Touring through one of the unrented units, Holroyd proudly points to the wide, white baseboards. “We really put thought into if we’d want to live here.”

Her desire for a beyond-the-basics facility has fuelled a good-humoured tug-of-war between Holroyd, the idealist, and her business partner, Kaye Melliship, the pragmatist.

“We’re going to reduce some of the extras in our next building,” says Melliship, executive director of the Greater Victoria Housing Society, which manages and co-owns Loreen Place.

“You have to be very realistic about the cost of maintaining the building.”

“But then it wouldn’t be so nice!” argues Holroyd.

With a grin she adds: “See how we work well together?”

Holroyd won the argument when it came to including features such a light above the tub (good for shaving, she says) and large garden beds in the interior courtyards.

“She even petitioned for in-suite washers and dryers,” Melliship says with an exasperated smile. On that final point, she put her foot down.

So far, 17 of the 52 units have been rented, and it turns out the rooms with the views aren’t the ones in demand.

All the cheapest, courtyard-facing units have been signed for. It’s a clear signal of where the biggest shortage lies in the rental continuum.

To be eligible to rent at Loreen Place, tenants’ household gross income can’t exceed $65,000. It targets low-to-moderate income earners – a wider mandate than most “affordable” housing projects.

Rent for two-bedroom apartments ranges from $875 to $1,300, making it not far off the average for Victoria. Throughout the metropolitan area, average rent was pegged at $1,000 in October, 2011, according to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

Over time, however, rents at Loreen Place will drop, as the mortgage is paid off.

“It will just get cheaper and cheaper,” Melliship says.

“It sounds like a great project,” says Tom Durning of the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre.

“I hope other municipalities take note of that.”

While municipalities often don’t have spare land, they can encourage rental housing in other ways, such as through rezoning, he says.

“They can do density bonusing, they can ease parking restrictions. It’s not just a monetary thing,” he says. “In a case like this, you’re getting a 52-unit project and all they needed was a little bit of start-up money … Why can’t we do more of them?”

Holroyd is working on just that.

She has submitted a rezoning application to the City of Victoria to redevelop the Friendly Inn, right next door.

“We still have to ask for construction financing, but it’s nice to have something where they can kick the tires and see that the building actually was produced with only $740,000 in capital.”

rholmen@vicnews.com

Did you know?

• As of October 2011, the vacancy rate in the city of Victoria was 1.8 per cent, compared to a regional rate of 2.1. See related story.

Just Posted

VicPD seeks person of interest after short-term rental ransacked

Combined losses for damage and theft are over $5,000

Whitecaps favourite switches to the Island

Marcel de Jong worked to end Whitecaps contract, joining Pacific FC on the ground floor

RCMP ask for public’s help to determine cause of weekend fire

RCMP are investigating the cause of the South Island Concrete fire

UVic’s cutting-edge centre leading the way in drones and AI

Centre For Aerospace Research works with partners including Department of National Defence

B.C. BUDGET: Surplus $374 million after bailouts of BC Hydro, ICBC

Growth projected stronger in 2020, Finance Minister Carole James says

VIDEO: 8 things you need to know about the 2019 B.C. budget

Surplus of $247 million with spending on children, affordability and infrastructure

Greater Victoria Wanted List for the week of Feb. 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

‘Bullet missed me by an inch’: Man recounts friend’s killing at Kamloops hotel

Penticton man witnessed Summerland resident Rex Gill’s murder in Kamloops

B.C. BUDGET: Income assistance raise still leaves many below poverty line

$50 per month increase included in funding for poverty and homelessness reduction

B.C. BUDGET: Indigenous communities promised billions from gambling

Extended family caregiver pay up 75 per cent to keep kids with relatives

B.C. BUDGET: New benefit increases family tax credits up to 96 per cent

BC Child Opportunity Benefit part of province’s efforts to reduce child poverty

B.C. BUDGET: Carbon tax boosts low-income credits, electric vehicle subsidies

Homeowners can get up to $14,000 for heating, insulation upgrades

B.C. man survives heart attack thanks to Facebook

A Princeton man suffered a heart attack while at an isolated property with no cell service

B.C. man sues Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party over trademark

Satinder Dhillon filed application for trademark same day Maxime Bernier announced the new party

Most Read